Representation matters. I cut my teeth on the horror of the 1970s and 1980s, and none of the big names were women. When women did write horror, they were largely overlooked: even Douglas Winter could only find a single woman to interview for his 1980s book Faces of Fear, and that was V.C. Andrews. Anthologies from those days tell a similar story, many of them featuring no women at all or at best a handful in their table of contents.
Of the women whose stories were appearing in anthologies at the time, I hadn't run across any I'd fallen in love with to the same degree I did stories by writers like Ramsey Campbell and Karl Edward Wagner. At least, none that were living. It seemed I was stuck with a triptych of the dead: Shirley Jackson, Daphne DuMaurier, Flannery O'Connor. I'd never thought of horror as gendered but it was obvious to me that the kind of people who were largely succeeding in the field of modern horror were, well, not quite like me. That's one reason discovering Lisa Tuttle's first collection, A Nest of Nightmares, was so significant for me. She was the first living female writer of horror whose work I truly fell in love with. They were contemporary stories with flawed, well-drawn characters who encountered terrors whose origins ranged from ancient myths to modern anxieties. Not only did I love the stories in the collection, but she was from the South (well, Texas), like me, and she lived in England, where I wanted to live someday. She still seemed like some impossible, remote figure, as all writers did to me in those days, but maybe just a tiny bit less of one than all the others.
A few years ago, I received a copy of A Nest of Nightmares as a gift, and I reread it immediately, for the first time in in decades. The first thing that struck me about it, which I had not fully grasped on my first encounter with it, was what a fiercely feminist collection it was. There were also images and ideas that had remained ever since that first reading, in some cases even when I'd forgotten their origins: the horrifying denouement of “The Horse Lord,” the terrible homecoming of the small-town Texas writer in “Flying to Byzantium.” Of course, eventually, I had the privilege of Lisa's writing the introduction to my second short story collection, which was absolutely one of those pinnacle moments for me, circling back to the person I was in a profoundly meaningful way.
I have mixed feelings about Women in Horror month because I worry that it separates us into two separate groups: “writers” and “women writers.” But I know the people who participate in and promote it are doing so because they fear the alternative may be that the second group just doesn't get noticed at all. And ultimately, I participate because I remember my own struggles to find someone who, well, was like me. Finding someone who is like you probably seems like something that doesn't matter very much when you have spent your life surrounded by examples of people like you doing the things you dream of doing. When those examples are few and far between, though, they mean everything.
Because her novel-length work is in the field of literary YA mysteries and thrillers and her short ghostly and supernatural tales have appeared largely in small niche markets, Helen Grant is a woman in horror who doesn't get as much namechecking and recognition as she deserves. Grant is, among other things, an aficionado of M.R. James, and it shows. Her work is characterized by a similar slow, subtle building of dread and often features Jamesian characters and locations. But these are not pastiches; Grant is a scholar of dead languages and an explorer of ruins herself, and these stories are very much her own. She doesn't write a great deal of short fiction, but what I have learned is that everything she writes is reliably excellent; when I pick up something and see a Grant story within, I know it will be quality. Some of the places you can find her work include the anthology Uncertainties II along with several issues of the magazine Supernatural Tales as well as her Swan River Press collection, Sea Change.
The laughter of a dead child echoes down the winding streets of a town in Spain… A mysterious stranger makes increasingly disquieting visits to a lonely English instructor in Central Europe… A woman experiences her own literal disintegration as someone – or something – from her past takes over her life…but who is the possessed and who is possessing? In return for the ability to touch the miraculous, the residents of an isolated mountain community are busily manufacturing items they don’t understand in preparation for a future they cannot imagine… With eight reprints from the pages of such publications as Black Static, The Third Alternative, and Supernatural Tales and three original tales, this chilling debut collection by Lynda E. Rucker will fill you with unease and unsettle your dreams. “Lynda Rucker's great talent is that she is able to carefully build a perceptive portrayal of the real world and in the process of that exploration find that edge where the everyday dissolves and the numinous begins. Her compelling execution of this transition strongly echoes the work of Robert Aickman.” – Steve Rasnic Tem
A woman returns home to revisit an encounter with the numinous; couples take up residence in houses full of sinister secrets; a man fleeing a failed marriage discovers something ancient and unknowable in rural Ireland . . .
In her introduction, Lisa Tuttle observes that “certain places are doomed, dangerous in some inexplicable, metaphysical way”, and the characters in these stories all seem drawn in their own ways to just such places, whether trying to return home or endeavouring to get as far from life as possible. These nine stories by Shirley Jackson Award winner Lynda E. Rucker tell tales of those lost and searching, often for something they cannot name, and encountering along the way the uncanny embedded in the everyday world.
"Haunted Places, Haunted People" by Lisa Tuttle
"The Receiver of Tales"
"The House on Cobb Street"
"Where the Summer Dwells"
"Who Is This Who Is Coming?"
"The Queen in the Yellow Wallpaper"
"The Wife's Lament"
"This Time of Day, This Time of Year"
"The Haunting House"
WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH LINKS
THE WOMEN IN HORROR MIXTAPE
INTERVIEW WITH KAYLEIGH MARIE EDWARDS
THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN HORROR 1: A MAN EXPLAINS
28 Days Of Black Women In Horror
Interview with Lee Murray
Women in Horror Month
The Monstrous Regiment of Women in Horror